Ottawa father’s petition to add autism therapy to Canada Health Act draws nationwide support

Parents across Canada are joining the fight of an Ottawa father who wants autism to be treated as a national health crisis.

Mark Chapeskie wants the federal government to allow for early intervention treatment to be funded by Medicare by including autism therapies under the Canada Health Act.

“I think it is an opportunity to do the right thing in a country that is a world leader in a lot of other areas,” he said.

Chapeskie, the father of William, a four-year-old boy with autism, says Canada is falling short when it comes to caring for kids with autism.

Chapeskie has started a national parliamentary petition calling on the federal government to treat autism as a neurological medical condition.

“I know that means opening up the Canada Health Act and all of negotiations and provinces and territories and what that entails,” he said.

He said the out-of-pocket costs of raising and supporting a child with autism are beyond the means of most Canadians and he believes that autism should be considered a health priority since half a million Canadians are on the spectrum.

Harold Doherty of Fredericton, N.B., signed the petition.  He said he’s been fighting to get support for his adult son, Connor, for years.

While some provinces do fund early intervention programs through social development programs, Doherty says most treatments end once a child reaches adulthood.

“It’s really kinds of a hodgepodge across the provinces and there is no consistent delivery of evidence-based autism treatment”

Less than a week after Chapeskie’s formal petition was posted to the Parliament of Canada website, more than 2,000 Canadians had signed the document.

That means that it will be read in the House of Commons.

While Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor would not commit to including autism care under the Canada Health Act she said the federal government is making strategic investments and a total of $10.9 million is being spent on a new online resource for families.

“We’ve been able to create a web portal that is going to be launched very soon where parents will be able to go to get the information,” Taylor said.

Chapeskie applauds the move, but he said that’s not what parents need: “That’s just a band-aid solution.”

He hopes once his petition is read in the House of Commons that what he calls a national health crisis will also become an election issue.

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